MOSCOW, 10 Jan 2022, RUSSTRAT Institute.
More than a hundred years ago, with a difference of just a couple of months, two great men shocked the world with two of the most idealistic speeches in the entire 20th century.
The first of them was Lenin’s speech “About Peace” the day after the capture of the Winter Palace – it remained a grandiose utopian dream. The second speech, which in many ways became a response to Soviet Russia, was delivered exactly 104 years ago by US President Wilson. It was it that determined the course of humanity for decades to come – new wars, conflicts and injustice.
Against the “poison of Bolshevism”
On November 8, 1917, the head of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the RSDLP(b), Vladimir Lenin, read out his famous Decree on Peace before the II Congress of Soviets of Workers’ Peasants’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. With a proposal for a just democratic world – without secret negotiations, annexations and indemnities – he appealed not only to the governments of the countries participating in the World War, but also to their working class.
It was the workers of England, France and Germany who were conceived, in accordance with the first act of Soviet Russia, as liberators of mankind “from the horrors of war, from all slavery and all exploitation”. Of course, this appeal has never been implemented. However, it presented the planet with an unheard-of alternative to the social processes of that time.
Exactly two months later, on January 8, 1918, on the other side of the planet, American President Woodrow Wilson dictated a different view of things to the world. In sincere terms, he outlined to the US Congress his “Fourteen Points” – a list of demands for the belligerents and views on the post-war world.
It is believed that it was Wilson’s principles that formed the basis of the Versailles Peace Treaty, signed in June 1919 following the First World War. This is only partially true. In reality, the peace concluded near Paris became a personal diplomatic defeat of the US president, who was not understood by either his allies or his own congressmen.
However, with the help of the “Fourteen Points”, Washington, which entered the war only in April 1917, achieved much more than signing “peace for twenty years”. These points formed the prototype of Pax Americana – the global domination of the United States on the basis of trade and economic superiority over both recent opponents and yesterday’s allies, including Russia.
In his speech to congressmen, Wilson repeatedly mentioned the “wisdom and justice” of the Russian Bolsheviks, who in those days were preparing the Brest Peace with the Germans. In one of the points, the master of the White House directly promised our country “sincere support” and “a sincere welcome into the society of free nations”, no matter what kind of government it adopted. Alas, the Versailles-Washington system of international relations, built according to the drawings of the 28th President of the United States, existed for many years and acted, according to a well-known expression, “against Russia, at the expense of Russia and on the wreckage of Russia”.
“The poison of Bolshevism has only become so widespread because it is a protest against the way in which the world has worked. Now it’s our turn, we must defend the new order at the Peace Conference, if possible – with good, if necessary – with evil,” these words of Wilson on the eve of peace talks describe the attitude of the United States to its future enemies, as well as to satellites.
This should be remembered today, against the background of Washington’s new “peace initiatives”. Americans are still talking loudly about freedom and democracy, about peace and security, but at the heart of their policy, as a hundred years ago, is the desire for world domination – or rather, feverish attempts to preserve it at any cost.
“The Carthaginian World”
Briefly , the points of Woodrow Wilson ‘s speech to Congress can be stated as follows:
1. Open peace treaties without secret diplomacy.
2. Freedom of navigation outside territorial waters.
3. Elimination of trade barriers.
4. Minimisation of the armed forces of states.
5. Settlement of colonial disputes on the basis of equal weight of metropolises and indigenous peoples.
6. Withdrawal of troops from the territory of Russia, which will decide its own fate.
7. Restoration of Belgium’s sovereignty.
8. The liberation of France with the transfer of Alsace-Lorraine to it.
9. Definition of the new borders of Italy on the basis of nationality.
10. The widest autonomy to the peoples of Austria-Hungary.
11. Liberation of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro.
12. Sovereignty of the Turkish part of the Ottoman Empire, independence to the rest of its peoples.
13. The formation of an independent Poland with access to the sea.
14. Creation of a union of nations with guarantees of independence and territorial integrity.
These proposals did not look like a revelation in the eyes of contemporaries. Plans to create new states at the cost of geopolitical concessions by the Central Powers – “imperialists,” as Wilson called them in his speech – directly stemmed from the situation on the fronts of the First World War. As we remember, Lenin called for open diplomacy. Back in August 1917, Pope Benedict XV proposed his own peace plan, which included arms reduction and international arbitration. And three days before the US President’s speech, on January 5, 1918, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George made a speech about the new world. A number of his proposals were so consistent with Wilson’s principles that the latter even wanted to cancel his appearance in Congress.
Nevertheless, it was not a letter from the Vatican or an appeal from London, but the “commandments” read out in Washington, submitted by Wilson in a deliberately visionary manner, that won the hearts and minds of many inhabitants of the planet and, first of all, subjects of Germany and Austria-Hungary, fascinated by the soft conditions of surrender. In this respect, Wilson’s plan indeed brought the Treaty of Versailles closer. But he did not make up the essence of the “Carthaginian peace”, as the English economist John Maynard Keynes aptly characterised the papers signed in 1919.
Contrary to the position of the White House, the British and French allies forced Germany to excessive reparations, the reduction of its territory, the organisational defeat of its armed forces, the destruction of entire industries and the loss of all overseas colonies. And most importantly, they forced Berlin to admit the “sole blame” for unleashing the First World War. Of course, such a shameful peace could not save Europe from a new war: it naturally caused revanchist sentiments in Germany and eventually brought Hitler to power in 1933.
Surprisingly, the Versailles Treaty did not suit the American congressmen either. In Wilson’s final point – on the creation of the union of peoples – they saw a threat to the national interests of the United States. Therefore, they never ratified the signed peace, preferring to conclude a bilateral treaty with Germany a couple of years later. For the same reason, the United States refused to join the League of Nations established in 1919 – despite the fact that Wilson received the Nobel Prize for its creation.
So what was it in his “Fourteen Points” that changed the balance of power on the planet?
“To create new troubles”
To answer this question, we need to remember exactly how that Wilson speech was prepared. This was by no means an improvisation: literally every phrase of the US president was based on the conclusions of the mysterious “The Inquiry” organisation. This was the name of a group of 150 scientists and researchers led by Edward House, assembled by Wilson in September 1917 and secretly prepared for him about 2,000 scientific reports, as well as about 1,200 maps.
The work of the group consisted in a thorough analysis of the political, economic and social factors prevailing on the territory of all warring states, including US allies. Analysts from “The Inquiry” formed the backbone of the delegation in Versailles, and soon created such a remarkable organisation as the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact, it was not Wilson, but the “wise men” from “The Inquiry”, generously fed by American capital, from John Rockefeller to Henry Ford, who outlined the contours of the Versailles-Washington system, which turned America into an economic superpower of the “transformed” world, and made Great Britain and Soviet Russia its main rivals.
So the personal failure of the US president turned into a series of victories for his country. Having agreed with the short-sighted demands of London and Paris for unaffordable reparations from Berlin and at the same time insisting on preserving German sovereignty, Washington planted a time bomb under the Old World. With the help of the notoriously inoperable League of Nations, in whose Council decisions had to be taken by consensus, he involved yesterday’s allies in eternal squabbles over trivial issues.
The very idea of a “global community” worked for American purposes of intercepting global markets. At the same time, thanks to the artfully barbaric division of Europe into new states, whose borders were drawn live on Washington maps, “The Inquiry” sowed the seeds of dozens of interethnic conflicts that doomed the continent to new wars. As “Colonel” House wrote in his diary following the results of Versailles, “to create new borders means to create new troubles”. The call for “self-determination of peoples” also hit the colonial interests of the old powers, starting with the breakaway of its dominions from the British Empire.
Russia got it even harder. Wilson’s bet on nationalism in Europe worked as an inoculation against the “Bolshevik virus” and created a cordon sanitaire against the Soviet Republic, starting with the “ugly brainchild of the Versailles Treaty” – Poland. As for the touching sixth point of the US president – about the “welcome to the sisters’ family” – in reality, he pursued the goal of preventing the transition of the territory of Russia under the rule of any one power, be it Britain, Germany or Japan. It was much more profitable to dismember it under the slogans about the rights of “indigenous peoples”.
In any case, “The Inquiry” advised Wilson to cut off at least Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine, including Crimea, from Bolshevik Russia. And in September 1918, at the height of the American intervention in Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and the Far East, the same House wrote:
“The rest of the world will live more peacefully if there are four Russias in the world instead of a huge Russia. One is Siberia, and the rest are the divided European part of the country.”
And yet the main thing in Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” were two purely economic principles – freedom of merchant shipping and the removal of any tariff barriers on the planet. Both provisions primarily hit the naval hegemony of Great Britain, causing the fury of London. This analogue of the anti-Chinese policy of “open doors” allowed American capital to shamelessly invade foreign markets and profit from the post-war reconstruction of Europe no worse than from three years of trade with both sides of the war. For such an audacious task, Washington created entire institutions, such as the International Chamber of Commerce founded in 1919, which to this day dictates world standards of commerce to mankind.
The increased dependence of the Old World on the US, which turned from a debtor during the war into its main creditor, was demonstrated by the Charles Dawes plan of 1924, which restored the German economy to the enormous benefit of American capital. The same big US business, which did not disdain any ties, pushed Washington to move closer to Berlin and Tokyo, just to complicate the position of British monopolies on the world stage. It was not in the emphatically isolationist policy of the state, but in the unrestrained economic expansion of the “big purses” that Washington found the basis of its power, giving slow-witted debates and negotiations at the mercy of European dwarfs.
However, since the proclamation of the “Fourteen Points” by the great idealist Wilson in 1918, it took America a long 60 years, which included another world war with tens of millions of victims, the collapse of European colonialism and the collapse of the “gold standard” of the Bretton Woods system, to create by the end of the 1970s a genuine Pax Americana based on the power of its aircraft carrier strike groups and the dominance of the “dollar empire”. Its main victims were the Soviet Union and the socialist economic system, created according to the daring drawings of the author of the “Decree on Peace”, another incorrigible idealist. But this is a completely different story.